My swimmer's journey so far has been the Introduction to Open Water trip in June 2013, the Intermediate trip in September 2013, the LDT trip in 2014, and signing up for a solo Channel swim in 2016. And from someone who one year ago was an injured runner and poor swimmer, I can say that it's been a blast.
I booked for the April 2014 Long Distance Training trip simply because I just wanted to swim for longer. I also wanted to try colder swims without a wetsuit with people who knew what they were doing (instead of 'helpful' friends telling me that my body was "slowly dying in the water"). I got on with the 3 hour pool training swims, which offered some preparation for the mental challenge of long swims, and weekend winter sea dips.
The Long Distance training was a wake-up call. It was not 'cuddly' Swimtrek in their "do what you can and then get in the boat" mode. Mainly because you can't get in the boat when the ladder has been removed and Kevin Murphy, the King of the Channel, is looking down from the boat. It was about shivering, thermals by the pool, tales of jellyfish comas and hypothermia videos, repetitive seabed sightings, circling buoys, and the most helpful phrase being "it's only unpleasant and then more unpleasant" (thanks for that, Emma - simple but true). I learnt an unbelievable amount for a novice distance swimmer about nutrition, psychological strength, cold, and how many obscenities I can shout at people in orange t-shirts in boats (a lot). I laughed a lot, and once had tears in my eyes at the thought of getting back in the water.
I am always blown away by the depth of experience and dedication that the Swimtrek coaches bring to all the trips, and maybe this trip more than the others. At 4 hours into the 6 hour swim (which I never intended to do), I knew I wanted to finish the 6 hours but really didn't know how to get there. As a Psychologist, the best description I have was that my head was 'in bits'. At a feed stop (30 seconds) I shouted some choice words at Kevin and Trish about my views on swimming in general, and Swimtrek. Kevin offered me a jellybaby and told me I'd be fine. With the confidence and encouragement of the guides, and 15 other people all struggling together, I finished and 36 hours later was considering a Channel solo in 2016.
My plans now are to keep acclimatising, build up speed and endurance in the pool over distance, and still maintain technique. I plan to meet up with new my Swimtrek friends in Dover for weekend training too (an 11 hour round trip!). I've got a 10k later in the year, and the 10 mile Scilly Swim challenge in September.
Sometimes I can't believe it's only 12 months since I miserably set foot in the 'wet side' of my health club for the first time in 5 years. I now can't imagine going more than a day without swimming. Or that the teenager that sulked her way across the Channel on a ferry many years ago would one day think about swimming it.